Monday, April 23, 2018
Cooking

Book club eats: smoky cheeseball goes with feminist novel

BOOK: You could read The Feminine Mystique, published 50 years ago, and gain valuable perspective on how far feminism has come since then, or you could honor the anniversary — and have a lot more fun — by reading Mary McCarthy's novel, The Group, published 50 years ago on Aug. 28, 1963. You might even gain a perspective on feminism.

The Group follows eight young women who graduate from Vassar in 1933, and make their various ways in the world. The author's blunt descriptions of sex, birth control, deflowering and other topics seldom found in respectable novels of the day shocked and titillated readers, and transformed McCarthy from a tart-tongued critic of literature into one of the wealthiest and most famous authors of her generation.

A graduate of Vassar herself, McCarthy used her eight characters as windows on various aspects of the female predicament in prewar America. Dottie, for example, reveals the sexual beliefs of the period, while Priss represents "enlightened" mothering. Although Libby's literary aspirations are thwarted, she still ends up as a successful literary agent. Polly provides a view of psychoanalysis in that era.

WHY READ? With feminism firmly established, it may be difficult to imagine how subservient and passive women were expected to be prior to the feminist wave that began to swell 50 years ago and continues to wash over American society. When McCarthy applied for a Guggenheim grant to write the book, she described it as a "history of the faith in progress of the 1930s and '40s as reflected in the behavior and notions of young women." Her book ultimately served more as a mirror that reflected back to women of the 1960s and what Betty Freidan called "the problem that has no name" — a sense of free-floating dissatisfaction with the role of women. Although not much of a feminist herself (her early career flourished with ample help from male admirers), McCarthy somehow energized feminism with The Group, which remains an engaging portrait of the time.

MAKE IT: In December of 1963, an ad in Better Homes and Gardens contained a recipe for an olive-cheese "porcupine" — a superb party "appeteaser." Containing cream cheese, cheddar cheese and blue cheese, the porcupine amounted to a typical 1960s cheeseball shaped like a porcupine, with olives on toothpicks acting as quills. Alejandra Ramos, creator of always orderdessert.com, has updated the recipe somewhat, adding cayenne and Tabasco to make it spicy, like McCarthy's novel, with almonds instead of toothpicks representing the quills.

Read & Feed is a monthly column in Taste that matches popular book club selections with food to serve at meetings. If you have suggestions or would like to share what your book club is cooking up, send an email to [email protected] Put BOOK FOOD in the subject line.

Comments
Taste test: vanilla wafers

Taste test: vanilla wafers

When it comes to cookies, our judges are all in. When it comes to vanilla wafers, most of them admitted to reaching for the familiar Nilla Wafers in the bright yellow box. Surprisingly, they liked the well-known brand least of the seven wafers sample...
Published: 04/23/18
A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

BROOKSVILLEThey brought it in glass carboys, in jars, in 2-liter bottles. It stacked up at the entrance to the auditorium, some of it just slightly murky but most of it crystal clear.Water. For more than 15 years the members of Region IV Florida Sect...
Published: 04/18/18
Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Whenever I fly, I pay way too much for food. Iíve stumbled jet-lagged into fancy wine booths and nearly bankrupted myself with cheese plates. Iíve purchased granola bars that cost more than my plane ticket (okay, maybe it just felt that way). If youí...
Published: 04/18/18
Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

There are chocolate people, and there are vanilla people. I am a lemon person.Show me a dessert menu, and Iíll choose whatever is flavored with puckery lemon or any of her citrus sisters ó lime, tangerine, kumquat, yuzu. Even as a kid, I went for lem...
Published: 04/17/18
Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

As the name suggests, 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs is no substitute for the kind of meatballs simmered for hours in your nonnaís Sunday gravy. Strangely enough, the recipe doesnít even include oregano or basil or a dry Chianti. And yet I think t...
Published: 04/17/18
Re-create that fancy spa water at home

Re-create that fancy spa water at home

It was lunchtime in the middle of the workday, so although I sat at the bar at downtown St. Petersburgís Asie Pan-Asian, I opted for a water. The bartender poured a glass and I took an unknowing sip.Cucumber. It was definitely cucumber. Iím not the b...
Published: 04/17/18
Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Many years ago, I took a trip to Rome and learned enough Italian to find directions and order dinner from menus. I learned very quickly that if I didnít make it clear, I would get sparkling water rather than still water at every restaurant. My husban...
Published: 04/16/18
Hereís how to make shakshuka, the egg dish with the awesome name

Hereís how to make shakshuka, the egg dish with the awesome name

By Rick NelsonSuddenly, it seems like shakshuka is everywhere.Restaurant menus. Food Network how-to shows. YouTube videos. And on breakfast, lunch and dinner tables in homes across the country.Maybe the dishís ascendancy can be traced to cookbook aut...
Updated one month ago
Cooking Challenge: Making a bowl of fancy bacon-and-egg ramen at home

Cooking Challenge: Making a bowl of fancy bacon-and-egg ramen at home

My boyfriend, Ben, screws a nail into the cork of our Bread and Butter wine bottle. Iíve recently moved into my own apartment ó the first step in a fully adult life ó but apparently, Adult Me doesnít own a bottle opener. Tonight, Iím cooking my first...
Updated one month ago

From the food editor: Homemade biscuits make the meal

Raise your hand if you have leftover Easter ham in your freezer. Yeah, me too. Itís not every day I pick up a large cured ham at the supermarket, so when holidays come around that call for the pork centerpiece, I always try to think of at least three...
Updated one month ago